Who Wants Who to Win

Former Democratic contender Governor Howard Dean can testify to the notion that endorsements are not always as desirable as they appear. When Vice-President Al Gore endorsed Dean on December 9, 2003, he passed along to Dean not only an endorsement, but the famous Gore luck and impeccable sense of timing. Less than a week later, the United States armed forces captured former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein and punctured the balloon of Dean’s previously ascending anti-war campaign. The event was a symbolic turning point for Dean.

Nonetheless, politicians instinctively seek out endorsements like moths to a flame. Sometimes, they even boast of them when the endorsers are too shy to make their endorsements public. On March 8 of this year, the sure-to-be Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry bragged that, “I’ve met with foreign leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly. But, boy they look at you and say: `You’ve got to win this. You have got to beat this guy. We need a new policy.’ Things like that.” Of course, the way the boast is framed, it is impossible to refute. There have been some public denials by foreign governments, but these could be proforma so as not to spoil relations with the Bush Administration.

The Washington Times tried to infer which foreign leaders Kerry might have met and from whom Kerry might have received an endorsement by looking at State Department and other public records. The only time when Kerry and a foreign leader were in the same city at the same time since Kerry became a presidential candidate was when the New Zealand Foreign Minister Philip Goff was at the State Department in Washington. There is no record of a Kerry-Goff meeting.

But it is too demanding to hold politicians to exact literal interpretations of their remarks. They often engage in self-aggrandizing exaggerations and short-hand ways of making a point, particularly when speaking extemporaneously. It would not be difficult to infer that there are some foreign leaders who prefer Kerry to President Bush. Surely, French President Jacques Chirac would, and despite German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s public denial of a Kerry endorsement, Schroeder’s preferences are obvious from his previous positions. On the other hand, Tony Blair’s political fortunes are tied to Bush so in his heart-of-hearts, Blair would probably prefer a Bush victory. Certainly, current free Iraqi leaders would prefer Bush. They are probably more convinced of a Bush commitment to Iraq’s long term stability than any Kerry commitment based on Kerry’s vote against authorizing $87 billion to support US troops and Iraqi reconstruction.

Since Kerry has brought up the issue of endorsements by foreign leaders, it seems fair to explore them. Although the opinions of allies are, in general, valuable, they are by no means dispositive. It has been said that nations have no permanent allies, only permanent interests. Hence, endorsement by foreign powers of American political candidates is a double edged sword.

Can we extend our analysis of approval by allies to disapproval of candidates by foreign enemies? David Broeder of the Washington Post did a little research and found that Democratic Senator Samuel Jackson of Indiana, who chaired the 1944 Democratic National Convention, had no problem using the wishes of our enemies as a political stick with which to pound Republicans over the head. Jackson said of a Republican victory, “How many battleships would a Democratic defeat be worth to Tojo? How many Nazi legions would it be worth to Hitler? … We must not let the American ballot box to be made Hitler’s secret weapon.”

Given his current predicament, it is a safe bet that Saddam Hussein would have preferred that Bush were not president last year. European papers report that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il expressed a preference for Kerry.

Let us affirm absolutely, that Kerry is no friend to our enemies and would embrace the capture of Osma bin Laden or the containment of Korea’s nuclear program with as much relish as anyone in the current Administration. However, he presumably has a different approach for the War on Terror and foreign policy. If Kerry boasts of foreign endorsements, is it fair to ask the question, who would Osma bin Laden prefer to win? Andres Mckenna Polling and Research asked a sample of 800 registered voters who would “the terrorists prefer.” By a substantial margin, 60 to 25 percent, voters assumed that terrorist would prefer Kerry. Perhaps both the public and the terrorists are wrong and Kerry would prove to more formidable than Bush, but are we allowed to ask the question? Would Bush or Kerry be more adept at executing the War on Terror?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.